I don't know about you, but lately, I've felt the desire to withdraw from everything going on in this world. It's so tough to watch. There is such an overwhelming amount of turmoil, disaster and suffering that I feel as if I can't process it all fast enough. Then I find that because I'm not directly effected, I feel helpless. Because I feel helpless, I also feel unmotivated and because I feel unmotivated, I also feel guilty. Do you have any of these feelings?
I find it helpful to break down feelings and emotions into what they really are. What are they telling you? What you can learn from each? How can we reflect and process in a healthy way? Here's what I've been understanding and learning about my feelings:
Helplessness: Helplessness is ultimately an expression of fear. We become so overwhelmed, that instead of taking action, we freeze and do nothing. When you find yourself feeling helpless, it might be helpful to ask, "what can I really control anyway?" The answer is: your mind. Nothing else is ever really in our grasp to control, so there's a sense of freedom in that.
When I feel helpless, I like to practice sending out prayer, loving kindness or metta meditation. Practicing metta is one simple thing that I can ALWAYS do to make a difference. By practicing love and controlling the way that you respond to tragedy, hatred or fear, you can raise the bar for those around you.
Lack of Motivation: Whether it's actual tasks or just emotional baggage, I become most unmotivated when I have far too much on my plate. In our goal-oriented society, it's important to recognize what YOU'RE putting on your plate, what you're allowing others to put on your plate and what actually needs to be there anyway. (Most of us have WAY more wiggle room than we think.)
Oftentimes, when I feel unproductive, it's not at all because I'm actually unproductive, but because my to-do list is impossibly long. So when I lack the motivation to do anything at all, I try to indulge in doing nothing. It only takes a few minutes to just sit there! Listen. Be idle for a few minutes and see what comes up. You might find that your body is trying to tell you something, that you need to go easier on yourself or that you just need to journal and get some things off of your mind and on to paper. Sometimes it only takes a few breaths to recognize what the real hang-up is and then take one little baby step at a time.
Guilt: Guilt is a tough one. It will eat you alive, if you let it. Rather than lifting others up along with us, we allow ourselves to feel guilty for SO many things. When you feel guilty, ask yourself: what 'should's' do you impose upon yourself? How do other's expectations play into your life? You may find that guilt only exists via comparison.
Allow yourself to feel compassion and sympathy for others and for yourself, but be aware when guilt or empathy sneaks in. Guilt and empathy have the same energy, the same quality of separation and comparison. Rather than feeling love and spreading useful energy, empathy pulls you down into the trenches with those you are trying to love. From a yoga perspective, sympathy is useful and constructive, but empathy is unhelpful for both parties.
Yoga gives us many tools for sanity. Yoga philosophy is literally like a toolkit for dealing with life. It provides constructive ways for us to feel and be curious about the 'good' and the 'bad.' Though it's not an excuse to totally withdraw, sometimes we need to allow that space to process quietly. Other times, we need to cry and express loudly, talk with someone or journal, but at all times, in order to stay sane, we've got to take it all in. Processing means being open to fully feel the light and the dark physically, mentally and emotionally. Find what feels right for you.